- By Eduardo Montalvo
- 10 Feb 2005
Something unprecedented happened last week at the U.S. Senate. During his
first speech of his Senate career, Sen. Mel Martinez addressed the Senate
This part of the speech stunned the Senate stenographer, who was only able
to type "speaking in Spanish" into the record as Martinez delivered his
speech. Everyone else was astonished with this unexpected speech.
For more than 200 years, senators addressed the Senate in English, out of
respect for their fellow senators, their constituents and every American
who did not speak their language.
It is true that the U.S. Senate represents people with all kinds of
ancestries. It is also true that America is a collage of people with
different cultures and languages, but we have to understand that English
is the language spoken in government, politics, media and business. No one
has the right to change this, even a U.S. senator. If we let every senator
address the Senate in their ancestral languages, debate would be almost
In my opinion, English should be our common language. It is the amalgam
that allows people from so many diverse origins to come together and
represent this great nation.
Speaking English is an inclusive gesture toward our diverse citizenry.
Spanish may be the native language of many Americans, but it is a language
that includes only some, and alienates most.
I believe we have to aim for national unity, not for separation by
I have spoken Spanish all my life. I think, feel and dream in that
language. But since I've lived in this great country, I've been giving my
best effort to learn the English language. I understood, since the very
beginning, that this is the way to become integrated, the way to prosper
and the way to be an equal citizen... an American.
As I always say, "My English is still under construction," and maybe I
will end my days trying to master it, but there is no excuse for not
Everyone must learn it, at least learn its basic principles in order to be
able to communicate with others who don't speak Spanish, that are, by the
way, the vast majority of the population in this country.
I am always doing business with people from all over the world, and thanks
to the common use of English, we are capable to conduct our business
But believe it or not, English is not the official language of the United
States of America.
Only 27 states have English as their official language, and several more
are considering similar legislation.
I believe the recognition of English as the official language will help to
expand opportunities for immigrants to learn and speak English, the single
greatest empowering tool that immigrants must have to succeed. Immigrants
who are not proficient in English always pay a price; they earn less and
live in poorer conditions than those who do speak it.
I know most Hispanics must be very happy with Martinez's stunt, but for
me, it was an unfortunate political maneuver. This divides the nation in
two halves, into Spanish speakers and the rest of the population.
It is true that he won, in part, thanks to the support of the Hispanic
voters of Florida, but he can't forget he has a commitment with all of the
constituents in this state. It doesn't matter what native language or
origin they have. Under all perspectives, this part of his speech is
Let us hope that Sen. Melquiades Martinez's speech was a
once-in-a-lifetime spectacular act.
I did support Martinez during his race for the Senate. I did believe he
was the right choice for us, but now doubts are beginning to arise.
Eduardo Montalvo is an
Osceola County, Florida real estate agent and frequent contributor to
Hispanic publications in Central Florida. Contact at